hana vu – “cool”

– featured image courtesy of alexandra adcock –

count us among those intrigued by hana vu, the los angeles-based songwriter behind “crying on the subway,” one of this year’s most enduring singles.  after dropping off the aforementioned track and its accompanying music video in january, vu caught the attention of the folks at luminelle recordings; the fat possum offshoot will release her debut extended play later this summer.

“cool,” featuring languid production and an elastic guest verse from fellow angeleno satchy, is a second glimpse into vu’s aural cocoon, her melismatic delivery of the titular word enveloping the sparse soundscape around her.  equal parts murky, aqueous, and warm, the exterior of “cool” is an invitation to bear witness to the solitude vu prefers to explore as she descends deeper into the track’s cavernous depths.

vu’s seven-song collection, how many times have you driven byis due out june 29th.  disappear inside “cool,” below.

premiere – pastel

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

last summer saw the release of pastel’s absent, just dust, a powerful five-track extended play that allowed gabriel brenner to explore the concept of native erasure from both a familial and a personal perspective.  at times heart-wrenching, at times introspective, and at times both, absent, just dust was a stark sonic departure from its predecessor, 2015’s comparatively soulful, pop-centric bone-weary.

to mark the holiday and to announce his showcase performance at sxsw next month, brenner is embarking on another about-face with “close,” a majestic one-off single.  cloaked in crystalline rolled piano chords that taper off with a chilly echo, “close” is a downright euphoric exploration of new romance, one that turns on the earnest vulnerability of brenner’s central query: “do you think about my body?”

“close” really blossoms into its refrain, the symphonic arrangement a byproduct of brenner’s catharsis.  juxtaposed with sparse, heartfelt verses powered by brenner’s commanding lead vocal, “close” is pastel in top form, a loud reminder of brenner’s prowess as a pop architect.  we’re thrilled to premiere the track today.

pastel will be performing during sxsw at the very jazzed/simpatico showcase on march 15th and will open for gus dapperton in houston on march 18th.  “close” is streaming below; experience it.

triathalon – “butter”

– featured image courtesy of michael younker – 

triathalon are just a few weeks out from releasing their latest full-length, the aptly-titled online, and the new york city-via-savannah trio have shared the album’s fourth and final single today.

on “butter,” adam intrator and company continue to fine-tune the early-morning haze that consistently washes over their tracks, sharpening a muffled soundscape to crystalline perfection before zooming back out.  contained within this panorama is a throbbing expanse in which meandering piano interjections, woozy guitar countermelodies, and intrator’s stuttering, pitch-shifted lead vocal all cohabitate harmoniously, an infectious trifecta in the foreground of an incredibly nuanced track.

online arrives february 16th via broken circles.  listen to “butter” below.

triathalon – “sometimes”

– featured image courtesy of michael younker –

the new york trio triathalon will unleash their sensual, after-hours aural inclinations in full on february 16th when their new album, online, drops via broken circles records.  folks eagerly awaiting the band’s full-length can now revel in “sometimes,” its third preview.

after cooly easing into a stuttering backbeat, triathalon ride the ensuing groove for two-and-a-half minutes, threading a busy bass line and chiming guitar chords through adam intrator’s double-tracked, shoulder-shrug of a hook: “that’s just how it goes / sometimes.”  capped off by a woozy motif that trails each iteration of its chorus, “sometimes” is an immediate earworm foreshadowing things to come in the new year.  take a listen below.

triathalon – “day one”

– featured image courtesy of michael younker –

triathalon exudes an impeccable smoothed-out aura.  with a pair of full-lengths and last year’s cold shower extended play in tow, the new york outfit has constructed an after-hours aural paradise, where the tempos are slowed down to a molasses drip and a falsetto perpetually flutters towards the stratosphere.

while things have been rather quiet in the triathalon camp throughout 2017, a glimpse of an impending release recently surfaced in the form of “day one.”  the trio’s palette has somehow become even more refined on the new single, with wobbly synth and guitar motifs steadying themselves against a more robust rhythm section.  wandering through it all is adam intrator’s lead vocal, switching effortlessly between registers to match a lyrical ebb and flow of varying states of mind.

expect to hear more new music from triathalon sometime in 2018.  until then, take “day one” for a spin.

ness nite – “expectations”

– featured image courtesy of derrick koch –

after a string of impressive standalone singles, ness nite became fully realized on her debut extended play, last summer’s nite time.  the title served as both a declaration of arrival and a nod to a decidedly nocturnal aura; there are sly bits of swagger inserted throughout, but nite time is largely tender and mood-oriented, the soundtrack to a comedown.

shortly thereafter, ness nite signed to the nascent passion of the weiss recordings and decamped to new york, her sights set on a full length.  relocation proved fruitful; ness nite retained the services of co-producer mike frey throughout the writing process, and enlisted alex tumay to handle the mixing and mastering of dream girl, her first album-length collection of songs.

ahead of the album’s arrival lies “expectations,” a chilly, potent cut that distills ness nite’s aesthetic into an easily-digestible concoction.  two subsequent hooks develop over sparse, atmospheric production; a quick pause to steady herself, and ness nite dives into the verse, leaning back on her triplets before leaning in and subdividing her delivery as the content becomes more confident.  if “expectations” is any hint, dream girl should find an incredibly gifted artist meticulously honing her craft even further this time around.

dream girl arrives in early 2018; get acclimated with “expectations,” streaming below.

pastel – “stammer”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

gabriel brenner will release his newest extended play, absent, just dust, as pastel next friday.  the collection of songs is a stylistic and thematic departure from last year’s bone-weary, as brenner explicitly examines how the erasure of native experiences intertwines with his own identity.

on “silhouette,” brenner wove a cryptic but identifiable vocal through the fibers of the track; album closer “stammer” augments the gravity of its predecessor by stripping any semblance of identity from its vocal treatment.  haunting melismas emerge from a molasses-thick texture, wordless in their delivery but increasingly powerful as their numbers multiply, allegorical to the disappearance of native perspectives from history and a personal emptiness that accompanies it.

“stammer” is ambient, meditative at first glance; taken in full context, it quickly transforms into the most evocative piece of work brenner has turned in to date.  listen below.

pastel – “silhouette”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

after exploring the realms of towering, majestic r&b on last year’s bone weary, gabriel brenner is set to take a more explicitly introspective angle on his upcoming extended play.  throughout absent, just dust, brenner explores his native identity, how familial traumas intertwine with a larger tendency to erase native experiences from the historical narrative.

that concept of erasure seeps into the fibers of “silhouette,” brenner’s latest offering under his pastel moniker.  even after an initial murky sample dissipates, brenner’s lead vocal is still submissive to the surrounding textures, echoing in a haze amidst the swelling synths, distant percussion, and controlled feedback that populate the track.

“silhouette” proves aching in more ways than one; a repeated thesis gives way to a fragmented narrative, its lack of resolution a heartbreaking nod to brenner’s overall examination of loss.  it’s the type of track with a gravity that lingers, especially after repeated listens in solitude.

absent, just dust arrives august 25th.  hear “silhouette,” the extended play’s centerpiece, below.

best of 2015: albums

casio vsco 2our year-end best-of week comes to a close with our favorite albums of 2015.  we’ll spare you from reading any more; click on each album cover to navigate away to a review – more often than not from this site – that adequately portrays our opinions.  as always, our picks will run in alphabetical order, and you can listen to each album by clicking on the link in its title.  dive in.

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mind out wandering coverastronauts, etc. – mind out wandering

depression cherry coverbeach house – depression cherry

new bermudadeafheaven – new bermuda

eskimeaux o.k.eskimeaux – o.k.

foxing dealerfoxing – dealer

ibeyi s:tibeyi – ibeyi

sprained anklejulien baker – sprained ankle

port st. willow syncopeport st. willow – syncope

carrie & lowellsufjan stevens – carrie & lowell

vince-staples-summertime-06vince staples – summertime ’06

best of 2015: honorable mentions

casio vsco 1the list of our hands-down favorite albums of 2015 will drop tomorrow.  to sate your appetite for the time being, digest the work of the following five artists; each offered up a project that informed the tone of music this year, continued to shape their own artistic personae, or contributed heavily to social commentary.  a few hit all three categories.  links to stream are imbedded in each title; dig in below.

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black messiahd’angelo & the vanguard – black messiah

without black messiah, kendrick lamar’s to pimp a butterfly would exist in a very different capacity, or perhaps not at all.  d’angelo’s first album in fourteen years so profoundly affected producer terrace martin at the tail-end of 2014 that he immediately began to retouch and rework tracks on lamar’s impending release to integrate its sound into a very similar contemporary social commentary.  black messiah exists in much of the same vein as sly & the family stone’s 1971 classic there’s a riot goin’ on and innervisions-era stevie wonder, with near-flawless levels of funk arrangements and intra-ensemble musicianship (questlove and pino palladino contributed heavily; d’angelo’s near-virtuosic vocal abilities and synth construction are incredible in their own right) compounded by a mixture of romantic odysseys and searing examinations of race relations.  indeed, d’angelo bumped up the release date of the album he had so painstakingly labored over in direct response to the death of eric garner, the decision in ferguson not to indict darren wilson in the death of michael brown, and the protests that surrounded these events.  the urgency of black messiah only became more pertinent, as 2015 ticked off killing after killing of unarmed black citizens at the hands of law enforcement; in forty years, the album will undoubtedly be one of the more salient cultural snapshots of the persisting racism in early twenty-first century america.

ds2 futurefuture – ds2

after a lackluster outing in 2014, you’d be slightly forgiven for assuming that nayvadius wilburn would post a similar performance this year.  but only slightly.  the artist better known as future instead turned in a critically-lauded résumé of two solo mixtapes (with a third purportedly on its way before the year’s end), a high-profile collaboration with drake, and his third studio album, ds2.  future relies heavily on atlanta mainstays metro boomin and zaytoven to craft the dystopian harmonies that accompany his codeine-laced trap hymns on ds2 as he weaves through chest-thumping accounts of bravado (“i serve the base”) and drug-fueled debauchery (“freak hoes”) to balance out the perpetual bleakness of his persona.  future could have hung his head and feebly released snippets of material after failing to live up to his expectations last year; instead, ds2 triumphantly caps off a quest for redemption that has reinstated future as a viable frontrunner for trap’s iron throne.  what a time to be alive.

eat pray thug coverheems – eat pray thug

 “i’m so new york / i still don’t bump tupac,” himanshu suri brags at the outset of “so n.y.,” the second track on eat pray thug.  performing as heems while a member of das rascist and now on his own, suri has made a name for himself with brazen, laugh-out-loud statements like this one, but you can usually bet on there being underlying context.  suri embodies a very particular subset of new york identity: coming of age as a brown man in post-9/11 america.  on eat pray thug, suri relies on personal anecdotes to drive home the laundry list of domestic injustices faced by residents of southeast asian and middle eastern descent in the wake of the attacks, from forced assimilation (“flag shopping”) to heartbreaking consequences of racial profiling (“patriot act”).  the album is a long-overdue narrative in hip-hop, one that is – in a cruel twist of events – still incredibly salient in the face of renewed xenophobia incurred by the attacks in san bernardino and paris.

honeymoonlana del rey – honeymoon

lana del rey has absolutely no qualms about burning slowly for an entire hour on her third major-label full-length.  honeymoon arrives on the heels of last summer’s ultraviolence and sinks even deeper into the realm of full-blown noir, a territory elizabeth grant has been meticulously constructing since the birth of her alter ego.  now it’s just flat-out extravagant.  the central thesis of “high by the beach,” a rare, trap-inspired moment of momentum on the album, comes off as the furthest thing from ridiculous precisely due to the effortless elegance del rey has slowly woven into her music; cinematic centerpieces “music to watch boys to” and “salvatore” follow this rationale closely as well.  it speaks volumes to her artistic growth and confidence that lana del rey no longer has the proclivity for the blatantly provocative.  instead, she just buries them in confessionals against a backdrop of polychromatic orchestration.

tame impala currentstame impala – currents

don’t kid yourself that currents bears any semblance of a revolutionary or landmark album; it doesn’t.  but once you put it in its proper place, this year’s model of tame impala does turn into something special.  kevin parker’s psychedelic magnum opus “let it happen” was one of the most immediately impressionable tracks of the year; the opening number on currents trudges resolutely through a succession of lush soundscapes before reaching an extended epiphany, but it’s parker’s ability and willingness to extend his odyssey that makes the album truly worthwhile.  every wandering, slow-burning moment (ie. “yes i’m changing,” “past life”) is balanced out by adroit slices of straight-up pop (ie. “the less i know the better,” “disciples”), adding a crucial third dimension that’s ultimately responsible for binding currents together.